The Weight of Time

Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.

17 Rue Thomas, Toulouse
25 June 1017

My dearest cousin Armand,

By now you will have received word from both my mother and yours concerning your father’s passing. She is much overthrown, I fear, though to be sure no else is, and so I have every confidence that you will yield to her pleadings and come home to see her.

Truly, she has no one else on whom to call; no one save for Mama and Papa and Jack, and her friends, and also Grandmaster Netherington-Coates, who has been most particular in his attentions during the past months. But none of these will do, however well loved they may be; no, she is determined to have you, her son, by her side.

As I have been pleading for your return to the Old Lands these past many months, I am in no position to fault her for this.

Should it affect your choice of route, may I say that the peculiar object you sent me two months ago has been fixed most securely to the roof of the student’s hall; the roof is flat, and there is a stair down should you wish to dock there. I urge you to arrive when the sun is high, or you might receive a most unpleasant welcome.

And now, to business. Over the past months, we three (Maximilian, Jérôme, and I) have been engaged in studying our own peculiar object, to wit, the magical node beneath the statue of King Guillaume III.

Our investigations in the archives have been inconclusive; we have not even been able to establish when the nodal block was placed there. The most recent possible date is some 537 years ago, which is the first reference we have found to any statue in La Place de Provençe—a monument to a King Ludovic—and so we have turned to other, more Cumbrian, methods of deduction. And what we have discovered has left my dear Maximilian mightily perplexed.

The use of magical power leaves traces in its subject; this is known to all. The residue persists for a time, and then, as it were, evaporates like the morning dew. The stronger the magic, the more prolonged the evaporation.

It seems—I know that this will appeal to you—that this evaporation follows a precise mathematical law. Given a particular spell, Cumbrian wizards are able to determine quite precisely just how long the effects of the spell will be detectable.

Given no more than a magical residue, as we have in our ley lines, it is impossible to compute either the strength of the spell or when the spell was cast. One hasn’t enough information. But if one knows when the spell was cast, then it is most easy to compute how strong the spell must have been.

Maximilian tells me that the usual period of evaporation ranges from minutes, for the smallest of cantrips, to months or years for very strong workings. Reflect, then, that the workings that produced the Provençese ley lines were done at least 537 years ago, and you will have some notion of our consternation.

Provençese wizardry does not concern itself with matters of quantity, being devoted to the qualities of each stream of magic: given a spell, either the practitioner is capable of casting it, or he is not. It is a matter of the stream, and of the practitioner’s own strength. Cumbrian magic is far more concerned with what Maximilian terms, “matters of scale.” And the scale implied by the residue we see in the ley-lines is outrageous.

Beyond the immensity of the implied workings, a result which left him speechless for a prolonged interval, Maximilian is most perplexed by the origin of that power. In Cumbrian magic one designs the arrangement of nodes; and then the wizard (or wizards, for a large working) pours in, as it were, the requisite amount of power. The power comes from the wizards themselves; or, if one uses people as the nodes, as one is forbidden to do, then also from the poor victims of the wizard’s malice.

But the amount of power implied here is far beyond what all the wizards of Cumbria and Provençe could produce, should they choose to work together—if anyone knew how to coordinate so vast a working, which we do not.

So where did the power for this working come from? Was the spell cast all at once, or once for each pair of nodes connected by a ley line? And what was the spell meant to do? What aim could be so lofty, so needful, as to command such vast resources? We do not know, and so we are quite put out.

We await your coming; perhaps your insight into the purpose of King Guy’s fundament (as Maximilian calls it) will help us begin to answer these questions.

Your impatient cousin,


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Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

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